Anti-Corporate Pageant Satire Is the Best: Book Review of Beauty Queens by Libba BrayLibba Bray is a genius as anyone who has bothered reading her blog would know. But for those people who read Going Bovine and still might be on the fence (seriously...after that?) then the final nail in the coffin of your conjecture will be a good read of Beauty Queens.
That is, if you like satire. I do although it's rare that I get to read it in a book geared toward young adults. I would say, on the satire spectrum, that Beauty Queens is somewhere between Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock and The Simpsons. Probably a shade closer to The Simpsons actually, because a) they are funny and b) for other stuff that will become evident as I write this blog post.
Before I go into the plot blah blah, can we take a moment to admire the cover??? The smudged sash (there was a plane wreck, duh) and the bandolier of red and pink lipstick (which looks cool but I imagine is really unhygenic, put those caps on, girlie!) - is awesome and gripping (although a subset of reader will be attracted to the tanned blond in the bikini. Whatever. I can't live your life for you.)
Okay, to the actual novel. As we discover in Libba's introduction, in the not too distant future a group of contestants for the Miss Teen Dream pageant has had a plane wreck on an island in the middle of nowhere (but not as nowhere as we first believe). Only a handful of them survive, and despite believing that they will be imminently rescued, they spin their talent portion into figuring out the basics of food, safety, and shelter while sizing up the competition.
Amid all of this, in a world heavily run by "The Corporation" and rife with reality television shows (yes, more than now, which I realize is hard to believe), a group of non-government affiliated agents are inhabiting the island's volcano (I know...Libba Bray is a big James Bond fan, read the acknowledgments at the end of the book, it's like a bonus chapter) and determining how best to rid themselves of the girls so they can get on with their nefarious plot. No, I am not telling what that is. You have to read the book.
Not to sound hokey, but at the center of the humor, the girls discover who they are - this amazing group of young women wrestle more than the psycho gigantic snakes and hallucinogenic fruit to figure out what they like and don't like about their lives, making real friends in the process. All this amid an avalanche of funny. The self-esteem message is subtle enough to be cool and not after-school-special-ey, going down real easy while you're laughing at the snappy dialogue and funny commercials (yes, I said commercials. This book has commercials and they are hilarious.) Oh, and there are hot, oiled teen pirates. Enough said *wink, wink*!
Did you know there was a cool contest for readers ages 13 to 18? Yeah-huh! You need to enter before July 1, 2011 but you could win an Amex gift card or Sephora gift card for $250. She really knows her audience! Check out the video (remember, Libba makes great videos - don't you remember the Going Bovine video where she wore a cow costume, complete with a...rather prominent...udder?):
So grab your tiara (don't act like there's not one in the house, we can all see it RIGHT THERE) and a copy of the Beauty Queens and get ready for a special in-flight entertainment. (Disclaimer: the hardcover copy is not a flotation device.)